Ohio Journalist

Home Field Advantage

by Sam Mullan | Photo bt Eli Hiller

(December 1, 2015) — How important is sports news today? Ask ESPN or Sports Illustrated, whose sole purpose is to cover it. The fact is that the two are connected more than ever.

Ohio University has seen alumni landing jobs in sports, including Allie LaForce (CBS Sports), Garrett Downing (Baltimore Ravens), and Paul Hagen (MLB.com). These days, Ohio is able to help its students achieve far beyond the classroom, taking them to new heights post-graduation.

But OU wasn’t always equipped to the same degree it is today.

Professionals in the field constantly remind today’s students that sportswriting didn’t exist as a class when they were in school 15 or more years ago. Former and current instructors like Molly Yanity and Justice Hill have sparked a fire at Ohio where sportswriting in the classroom now exists for students who want to cover sports for a living. Rather than learning in the field, they can get their start in the classroom.

“I was so passionate about it growing up,” Yanity said. “There are so many students with that same passion with no professors to bounce ideas off of. It was important for me to change that.”

That opportunity can quickly be turned into an experience in the field, as Ohio’s WOUB and The Post, among other student media, have sent students to major sporting events that Bobcat teams have been involved in, such as college football bowl games, March Madness and even the national championships for wrestling. The success that Ohio has seen with its athletic programs has fueled opportunities that other journalism programs can’t offer.

“The past two years, I’ve been lucky enough to travel to Des Moines and Oklahoma City to cover the NCAA wrestling tournament,” current senior Kyle Bratke said. “These events have given me great experience on what it is like to work next to huge media outlets, at a big-time sporting event. They have helped me greatly and will continue to down the line.”

Ohio’s teams aren’t the only ones finding success, though. WOUB’s “Gridiron Glory“ and “Hardwood Heroes“ have seen local high schools find success and have had a chance to cover that. In the past year, “Gridiron Glory“ covered the Athens Bulldogs who played in the state highschool football championship game, and before that, the Trimble Tomcats played for the 2013 Ohio Division VII championship. “Hardwood Heroes“ witnessed the Eastern Lady Eagles win the 2013-2014 Ohio Division IV basketball championship. While these aren’t Ohio University sports, students have been granted the opportunity to cover these teams as they work their way toward a deep postseason run.

With “Gridiron Glory“ and “Hardwood Heroes“ just finishing their 16th and sixth seasons respectively, the two programs serve as experience gateways for students. WOUB has continued to build off of that today, with the more recent introduction of “Bobcat Sport Showcase,“ allowing students to cover Ohio sports beyond the actual events. With each show, there is a growing push to not simply “recap” the games or matches but rather to introduce packages and features about athletes, coaches or something that makes that team special, much like you’d see with shows such as “E:60” or “Outside the Lines.”

WOUB Sports coverage includes Marietta College and Rio Grande College. This allows more students the opportunity to get out into the field and write game stories or work on features and packages on students and teams that, especially in comparison to Ohio University, most people don’t know about.

Alumni also have helped make sports click. Their willingness to return and talk to students, as well as calling in to a conference call and giving advice, have given students the chance to understand what they have to look forward to. Hill has been a major part of that, with his ability to set up events such as the recent two sports panels that brought in consummate professionals.

Beyond that, Ohio alumni in the sports world also do an incredible job at helping students with networking; for example, Dean Linke at the National Soccer Coaches Association of America helped to send students to Europe during the World Cup. Alumni are seemingly more than happy to help current students meet their on-campus requirements and to look after them beyond that, whether that’s as an editor of their work or as a mentor.

“I think a student coming into school right now has so many more opportunities in the classroom,” Yanity said. “There are many more professionals to connect with and so many more programs being created.”

Sports and journalism’s connections are at an all-time high. With these opportunities at Ohio University just beginning, it’s now time for new professionals from OU to take control of their futures.

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